Hello my name is Linda Lemay-Richard and I’m an MST survivor. I joined the Vermont Air National Guard on 21 Nov 1990 under the Delayed Enlistment Program. I retired on 10 Sep 2017 as an E-7.
I initially joined for college and to travel and see places that I wouldn’t normally see. I signed up for the GI Bill and never used it, but sure got the traveling in. I did finally go back to school (post 911 GI Bill) and in April 2017, graduated with my bachelors in Business Management.
I loved serving my Country to be a part of something. It was a true honor to be able to put on the uniform and pay it forward as others have done in the past and will in the future. It wasn’t always fair or fun and I took some crap along the way. I endured many shitty supervisors, sexist remarks, treated like shit for being a Guardsmen since we were only one weekend a month. I was denied cold weather gear because I didn’t need it, I was only 2 days a month…. I put up with a lot but stood my ground and demanded what was entitled to me in order to do my job which included working on the flight line.
I deployed in 2004, to Qatar, and little things happened to me on that deployment; the guys I worked with thought it was funny. I truly thought I was losing my mind. My name tape for my box where things that I needed or messages were put was always being cut up. I spent most of my shift looking for essential items to do my job since my items were scattered like a sick treasure hunt. I spoke up and was told it was funny and I should laugh about it since it was funny! An AD lower rank supervisor made sick and inappropriate remarks that would make my skin crawl and I spoke up. He received an article 15 and I was chewed out for ruining his career.
In 2006, I deployed to Iraq and things escalated from there. My sneakers were cut up, everything that was mine went missing from the shop and my boxes from home would come up missing if I didn’t pick them up right off. I was physically assaulted by a subordinate, he would crawl between my legs and try to take pictures, sexually harassed by him and some of the pilots. Same supervisor and again it was all funny. I reported my physical assault to my Life Support Officer, nothing was done except I was chewed out in front of the subordinate for trying to ruin his f’ing life. I came out swinging and it was ugly and I’m sure that the whole base could hear the language and words coming out of this work area. The subordinate was protected. He was kicked out of the Air Guard but allowed to join the National Guard as a commissioned officer since he attended a four year military college.
It wasn’t until 2015, that I filed for PTSD with a MST therapist that I truly started to figure out my trauma. I still shutter at what shit I went through and it brings me to tears to this day knowing this SSgt meant to do me harm, that I would have been safer doing convoys outside the wire then working in my shop. I never told my dad what happened to me since he always taught me to stand up for myself and to fight if I needed to. I didn’t want him to be embarrassed of me, that his daughter couldn’t defend herself while deployed. I was also disgusted that I ran from the room immediately after getting free. I wonder why I never decked the asshole.
Before retiring, I shared my story with my Chain of Command in Maintenance hoping that things will change for the next batch of females coming in. I was urged to file again and told them the first time was enough for me. It was amazing to hear from the Maintenance Commander his reaction since we deployed together. I took care of his gear to ensure he was safe doing his missions. He was so emotional and bothered by what happened. He asked me if I felt things had changed and I told him I hope so but they need to find a way to ensure that the female doesn’t become that girl!
I looked for a group on facebook for MST initially to help me relate to a friend who had been raped while serving. She doesn’t fight for herself and has just given up and I personally didn’t know how to relate to her. I’m a critical thinker and I wanted to learn to become a better friend. Now, I learned that what happened to me was wrong and that I’m just as broken as my friend. It is in different ways because I have shut off feelings since it is easier that way. I have lost the relationship with the friend but I’m finding so much more. I found some beautiful ladies, fabulous group, and the best support group. This group helped me more than my therapist. I was able to finally talk about what happened to me, face my embarrassment with not telling my dad and to stand tall and say I was a victim but now a SURVIVOR.
I’m honored to have a wonderful husband who has stood by my side. We were friends in school, grew apart in high school and got back together in 2006. He has been there for me and it means the world to me. We have a handsome son who is 11 and I’m teaching him about the world and how to stand up for yourself.
Thank you for this honor.
Linda Lemay Richard
US - Vermont Air National Guard